On 15-16 October 2015, the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly met to consider the agenda item on the rule of law at national and international levels. In accordance with the decision of Member States, the subtopic of the debate was ‘the role of multilateral treaty processes in promoting and advancing the rule of law’.

The Committee considered the report of the Secretary-General ‘Strengthening and Coordinating United Nations Rule of Law Activities’ (A/70/206). In addition to outlining key rule of law activities and developments by members of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group (ROLCRG) and the Rule of Law Unit, the report also provided information on the subtopic of this year. At the request of the Assembly, an annex to the report contained an analytical summary of past thematic debates on the rule of law held in the Sixth Committee.

Mr. Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs briefed the Committee on the subtopic of the debate. He highlighted the work of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) in supporting the development of a robust, open and transparent multilateral treaty framework. This includes the work of the Codification Division in the pre-conclusion phase of the multilateral treaty process, the work of the Treaty Section in the process of drafting final clauses, as well the role of OLA in the post-conclusion phase, including the advisory role of the General Legal Division and the depository functions of the Treaty Section. Mr Mathias also underlined the importance of the capacity building work of OLA, particularly through the implementation of the Programme of Assistance in the Teaching, Study, Dissemination and Wider Appreciation of International Law.

In the debate, several Member States  expressed the view that rule of law at the national and international levels is key to maintaining international peace and security, and  highlighted that significant linkages exist between the rule of law and  the three pillars of the UN, with a possibility to further explore and develop these linkages. Many Member States emphasised the importance of the assistance provided by the UN and the international community in capacity building towards strengthening the rule of law, based on national ownership and national priorities.

Member States also  welcomed the adoption of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, and emphasised that sustainable development and rule of law are mutually reinforcing. To that end, some Member States stressed the importance of taking steps towards fully implementing the sustainable development goals.

With regard to the report of the Secretary-General’ (A/70/206), many Member States commended the report as a thorough presentation of the work of the UN in the areas related to the rule of law and a useful basis for discussion. Some Member States suggested areas for review and improvement, including calling for greater emphasis on international rather than national rule of law and suggesting that the next report of the Secretary General should also contain information on the operation of the rule of law within the UN.

Member States consistently expressed appreciation for the subtopic of this year’s debate. Citing multilateral treaties as essential to the development of a comprehensive legal framework and ensuring rule of law throughout the international system, Member States emphasised that multilateral treaty processes enable all States to contribute on an equal footing. Several delegations noted the important role of multilateral treaties in codifying and clarifying customary law, as well as the effect of multilateral treaties towards settling and preventing international disputes.

Many Member States welcomed the increasing participation in multilateral treaties, noted the importance of their wide ratification and implementation, and highlighted their own national efforts in this regard. Some States called upon the wider ratification of specific treaties, such as the Rome Statute. Several Member States expressed their appreciation for OLA, in particular the Treaty Section and its role in the registration and publication of treaties, as well as its capacity building and training activities on the law of treaties.

Finally, numerous delegations expressed their appreciation for the work of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and the Rule of Law Unit.  Several delegations commended and further encouraged thematic briefings organized during the inter-sessional period and their usefulness in sharing knowledge and best practices.

Statements made by Member States at the meeting can be found here: http://papersmart.unmeetings.org/ga/sixth/70th-session/statements/